Philosophical Issues of Sex and Gender (Spring 2019)

Philosophical Issues of Sex and Gender

Phil 265-01 | CRN 20859 | Spring 2019

Course Syllabus

(version 5)

Instructor: Aaron Smuts ( | Gaige 230


In this course we will explore several philosophical issues concerning sex and gender: What is sex? What is gender? How are they related? What is a woman? Are women in current Western democracies oppressed? What is oppression? Do we live in a patriarchy? What is feminism? Are men also discriminated against? What constitutes sexual consent?

We will be reading arguments defending various sides on these issues. The goal is to evaluate the strongest arguments that we can find for the opposing views. Hence, if you hold positions on any of these issues, you will be reading and discussing arguments from people who disagree with you.

Since this is a Connections course, we will be looking at a several different ways of approaching these issues: classic and current feminist theory, sociology, evolutionary psychology, trans rights activism, anti-feminism, worries about discrimination against men, journalism, fiction, biology, exercise physiology, and philosophy.


You don't need to buy any books for this course. I will post all of the readings on Blackboard. I've also included links here to online versions of the readings. These links are also included on Blackboard.


There will be two different forms of coursework: daily quizzes and eight short essays (3 pages). I will give a short quiz at the beginning of each class that will require one or two sentence answers. The quizzes are closed-book and open-note. The bulk of your grade comes from the short essays. All assignments must be completed to pass the course.

Daily Quizzes (26 possible points) + 8 Short Essays (x 10 points each) = 106 possible.

95-106 = A

90-94 = A-

86-89 = B+

83-85 = B

80-82 = B-

76-89 = C+

73-75 = C

70-72 = C-

. . . .

Short Essay Due Dates

There is a short (2-3 page) essay due every other Wednesday by 10:00 am. (I will deduct 3 points for each day the essay is late. See the details on the exam instructions.) The schedule is as follows:

Short Essay #1 - Due on Friday 2/08/2019 by 6:00 pm

Short Essay #2 - Due on Wednesday 2/20/2019 by 10:00 am

Short Essay #3 - Due on Wednesday 3/06/2019 by 10:00 am

Short Essay #4 - Due on Wednesday 3/20/2019 by 10:00 am

Short Essay #5 - Due on Wednesday 4/03/2019 by 10:00 am

Short Essay #6 - Due on Wednesday 4/17/2019 by 10:00 am

Short Essay #7 - Due on Wednesday 5/01/2019 by 10:00 am

Short Essay #8 - Due on Wednesday 5/08/2019 by 10:00 am

Attendance Policy: Come to Class

Although I record every class meeting, attendance is required. If you miss 6 or more classes, you will receive a 0 for your quiz grade. If you miss 12 or more classes, you will receive an F for the course. (I'm not in the business of excusing absences. So I don't need a note from your doctor. But please talk to me if something major comes up that dramatically affect your attendance.)

Tardiness Policy: Come on Time

If you are more than 5 minutes late, I will not accept your daily quiz and you will be marked absent. Come to class on time. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will not be admitted to class.

Leaving Early Policy: Don't Leave Early

No matter the reason, if you leave early, I will not accept your daily quiz and you will be marked absent. It doesn't matter if you have a court date, a doctor's appointment, or if you have to get to work. If you leave early, you will be marked absent.

Classroom Etiquette Policy: Be Courteous

Pay attention; don't have distracting side conversations with other students; don't read newspapers or do crossword puzzles in class; don't sleep; don't text; don't sigh loudly with displeasure. This kind of behavior is disruptive. Be civil. Be courteous. This isn't high school. If your behavior is disruptive, I will ask you to leave. If I have to ask you to leave twice, you will receive an F in the class.

Laptop Policy: Don't Use Laptops

Laptop use is prohibited. The same goes for tablets, smart-phones, and even dumb-phones. Consider this rehab for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and inane social media addiction. You should print the articles posted on Blackboard and bring them to class.

*Phones should be put in your bag or purse. Don't try to text under the desk. Just don't do it.

Academic Honesty: Be Honest

Plagiarism—claiming someone else’s ideas or written work as your own—will not be tolerated. The tests are not collaborative. All sources must be cited. Anyone caught cheating will be given a failing grade in the course. I am also required to report you to the Vice President of Academic Affairs. But I would report you even if it was optional. Plagiarism is a serious offense.

Class Schedule

* The readings for each class are nested under the date. You should do the readings before class. There will be a quiz every class after the first meeting.

C1 (T: 1/22/19)

Alexander, "Varieties of Argumentative Experience"

I. Feminism and Oppression

C2 (R: 1/24/19)

Stone, "Introduction" (focus on pp.1-11, you can skip the rest)

Caplan, "Against Argumentative Definitions"

C3 (T: 1/29/19)

Johnson, What is Patriarchy "Where we are" (pp.3-25) [focus on pp.3-18]

C4 (R: 1/31/19)

Frye, "Oppression",%20Oppression.pdf

C5 (T: 1/5/19)

Lemoine, "The trouble with feminism"

II. Rape, Coercion, and Consent

C6 (R: 2/7/19)

Roupenian, "Cat Person"


Smith, "Dear Cat-Person Girl"

C7 (T: 2/12/19)

Roiphe, "Date Rape's Other Victim"

C8 (R: 2/14/19)

Wertheimer, "Consent and Sexual Relations"

C9 (T: 2/19/19)

Conly, "Seduction, Rape, and Coercion"

III. Sex and Gender

C10 (R: 2/21/19)

Stone, "Sex"

C11 (T: 2/26/19)

Stone, "Gender"

C12 (R: 2/28/19)

Reilly-Cooper, "Gender is not a Spectrum"

C13 (T: 3/5/19)

Stewart-Williams, The Ape that Understood the Universe, ch.1, pp.1-9

Stewart-Williams, The Ape that Understood the Universe, ch.3, pp.62-90

C14 (R: 3/7/19)

Stewart-Williams, The Ape that Understood the Universe, ch.3, pp.90-118

SPRING BREAK 3/11 - 3/18

IV. Trans Issues

C15 (T: 3/19/19)

Chappel, “Transwomen and Adoptive Parents: An Analogy”

C16 (R: 3/21/19)

Goldberg, "What is a woman?"

C17 (T: 3/26/19)

Reilly-Cooper, Sex and Gender: a Beginners Guide, parts 1,2,3

C18 (R: 3/28/19)

Reilly-Cooper, Sex and Gender: a Beginners Guide, parts 4 and 5

C19 (T: 4/2/19)

Stock, "Arguing about feminism and transgenderism"

C20 (R: 4/4/19)

Alexander, "The Categories Were Made for Man"


Stock, "Changing the concept of “woman” will cause unintended harms"

C21 (T: 4/9/19)

Vigo, "Confronting a New Threat to Female Athletics"

Kearns, "In Defense of Women’s Sports"

C22 (R: 4/11/19)

Singal, "When Children Say They're Trans"

V. Boys and Men

C23 (T: 4/16/19)

Sommers, "War Against Boys"

C24 (R: 4/18/19)

Benatar, Second Sexism, Ch.1&2

C25 (T: 4/23/19)

Benatar, Second Sexism, Ch.3 "Explaining Male Disadvantage"

Benatar, Second Sexism, Ch.4 "From Disadvantage to Wrongful Discrimination" (selections)

C26 (R: 4/25/19)

Quing and Tong, "The Consequences of Taking the Second Sexism Seriously"

C27 (T: 4/30/19)

Clatterbaugh, "Benatar's Alleged Second Sexism"